The West Allegheny baseball team just kept on running.
Bellefonte could not keep up.
“That’s just how we play baseball at West Allegheny,” Indians coach Bryan Cornell said. “It works a lot of the times, but sometimes you sit there and say, ‘Why’d you do that?’ Well, it didn’t hurt us today. It helped us, and it helps us a lot more times than it hurts us.”
West Allegheny turned the aggressive play into an 8-1 win in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs Monday afternoon, and an end to the Red Raiders’ season.
“Nobody wants to leave with a loss,” Bellefonte coach Jeremy Relinger said. “But we’re proud of the guys.”
The Indians pounded out nine hits while putting plenty of pressure on the Red Raider defense, and was backed up by a three-hit pitching performance from Colin Claus to advance to the state quarterfinals. West Allegheny will meet either Donegal or Franklin Towne on Thursday. That first-round game was rained out and will be played Tuesday.
Claus was a little wild but effective in his three-hitter, walking four and striking out six over six innings.
“He was coming from a little bit lower,” Relinger said of the left-hander. “It was a little bit different look. Any time a pitcher is right around the plate, you’re going to sometimes hit them, sometimes not. It’s not easy, not easy to battle like that.”
Cameron Duffett took care of the seventh inning to wrap up the win.
Logan Mathieu took the loss, pitching 5 1/3 innings, striking out three, walking four, hitting a batter and allowing eight hits.
“He’s a high-quality pitcher, and we’ve seen from him some really good things,” Relinger said. “When you have a 1 and 1A on your staff, you have some options.”
The aggressiveness was evident right from the top of the first inning, when the Indians’ Brandon Pouch was hit by a pitch and Mike Starkman drew a walk. Mike Cummings then hit a slow roller that was thrown away to bring in Pouch, and Cummings and Starkman then worked a double steal with Starkman scoring.
The lead was 2-0 without a hit, and it wasn’t until a fly out to right field to end the inning that a ball traveled more than 30 feet in fair territory.
More pressure was applied in the third, and it all but wrapped up the win.
Cummings singled, then was picked off first by Mathieu. Cummings raced to second, and the throw was dropped. He then scored on a Claus single. With two out and the bases cleared, the Indians got even more aggressive. Josh Bahr and Chasen Claus reached on a single and walk, respectively, and Danny Guilfoil hit a slow dribbler just past the mound. Raider shortstop Darren Heeman charged the ball, made a bare-handed scoop and fired to first, but Guilfoil beat the throw and Bahr raced all the way from second to score.
“You have an athletic kid making an athletic play,” Cornell said. “We knew he was going to throw it, so we’re sending him here.”
A Matt Starkman double added another run, and a passed ball plated another for a 6-0 lead.
“They found real small spots out there where nobody was,” Relinger said. “We had to make a couple more plays. That’s what happens when you win. Sometimes the ball bounces your way a little more.”
Bellefonte finally got on the board in the bottom of the third, with a one-out single for Vance Przybys and back-to-back walks to load the bases before a Mathieu sacrifice fly scored Przybys.
A ground out prevented the Raiders from making any more of a comeback.
Matt Starkman had a one-out single in the sixth, but an errant pick-off attempt, and another error on the ensuing throw back to the infield, let Starkman circle all the way around to score. An RBI double for Claus a little later completed the scoring.
Claus was 2 for 3 with a pair of RBIs, Starkman also was 2 for 3 and Pouch was 2 for 4.
“I’ll take the athleticism of our kids,” Cornell said. “We always have to apply pressure.”